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Etymology and History

The word entered English in 1598 via Italian caffè, via Turkish kahveh, from Arabic qahwa. Its ultimate origin is uncertain, there being several legendary accounts of the origin of the drink. One possible explanation is the Kaffa region in Ethiopia, where the plant originated (its native name there being bunna). Coffee beans were first imported from Ethiopia to Yemen. One legendary account (though certainly a myth) is that of the Yemenite Sufi mystic named Shaikh ash-Shadhili. When traveling in Ethiopia he observed goats of unusual vitality and, upon trying the berries that the goats had been eating, experienced the same effect. A similar myth ascribes the discovery to an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi. Qahwa originally referred to a type of wine, and need not be the name of the Kaffa region.

Consumption of coffee was outlawed in Mecca in 1511 and in Cairo in 1532, but in the face of its immense popularity, the decree was later reverted. In 1554, the first coffeehouse in Istanbul opened. Coffee was introduced in England in the 1430s by the Greek professor in Oxford Ioannis Servopoulos. Largely through the efforts of the British and Dutch East India companies, coffee became available in Europe in the 16th century, at the latest from Leonhard Rauwolf's 1583 account, with first coffeehouses opening in the mid-17th century: in Cornhill, London in 1652, in Boston in 1670, and in Paris in 1671. By 1675, there were more than 3,000 coffeehouses in England. Women were not allowed in coffeehouses, and in London, the 1674 anonymous "Women's Petition Against Coffee" complained that

the Excessive Use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called COFFEE [...] has [...] Eunucht our Husbands, and Crippled our more kind Gallants, that they are become as Impotent, as Age [1].

Legend has it that the first coffeehouse opened in Vienna in 1683 after the Battle of Vienna, taking its supplies from the spoils left behind by the defeated Turks. Another more credible story is that the first coffeehouses were opened in Krakow in the 16th or 17th century because of closer trade ties with the East, most notably the Turks. The first coffee plantation in the New World was established in Brazil in 1727, and this country, like most others cultivating coffee as a commercial commodity, relied heavily on slave labor from Africa for its viability. The success of coffee in 17th-century Europe was paralleled with the spread of the habit of tobacco smoking all over the continent during the course of the Thirty Years War (1618–48).

The mother plant for much of the arabica coffee in the world is kept in the Amsterdam Hortus Botanicus.

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